Newcastle: A Good Start Vital For Pardew

First game aside, Newcastle have been given a generous opening to their campaign. If they don't take advantage, Alan Pardew will be looking over his shoulder intently...

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LAST SEASON

Premier League 16th FA Cup League Cup Europa League quarter-finals

Manager Alan Pardew (since December 2010) Odds on being first out of his job 2-1 (favourite)

Players in Loic Remy (QPR, loan with £2m fee), Olivier Kemen (Metz, undisc)

Players out James Perch (Wigan, £750,000), Steve Harper (Hull, free)

Club turnover in 2011-12 £93m (7th)

Handicap betting to win Premier League +34 points (8th)

After finishing fifth in the previous season, Alan Pardew did not need to spell out that Newcastle had underachieved as they headed for 16th in May. But he did so, going as far as to admit his failings, that his job was under threat eight months on from his receiving from Mike Ashley what was announced as an eight-year contract. Of survival he said: "Hopefully it'll be good enough to keep my job next year. But that ultimate decision is not mine so we could get the points we need and Mike could decide he needs to move to another manager. I like to think that he won't."

Every day he must wish he had stopped there.

"We know we've got an uncomfortable conversation regarding the form this year, the underachievement that's been mentioned and everything else. It'll be uncomfortable for us both, because we've both underachieved. Him as an owner and me as a manager."

There is no demonstrated correlation between the shock of Joe Kinnear's return to Tyneside as director of football and Pardew's remarks, but everyone has drawn the inference, including the bookmakers. A year ago Pardew was 40-1 to be the first manager out of his job, after Newcastle's fifth-place finish; today he is 2-1 favourite, a quarter of the odds of the next man.

It doesn't matter that many would hold Ashley partly responsible for last season's disappointment, which followed minimal recruitment in the summer. Trying to stand still in the Premier League requires some effort as all about will be trying to displace you and the squad struggled to cope with the demands placed on it by the Europa League. With Demba Ba's contract allowing his escape to Chelsea, a belated January splurge was necessary but signings that time of year cannot bed down instantly. However, the controversial owner is not answerable to anyone, least of all his manager.

Without the Europa League and with the January signings - Mathieu Debuchy (£5m), Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (£6.7m) and Yoan Gouffran (£1.4m), Moussa Sissoko (free) - benefiting from a pre-season and perhaps some of the compulsory English lessons, there were reasonable grounds to expect an improvement in the new campaign. At the same time the feeling persists that the fifth place of 2012 - with a goal difference of just +5 - was an overachievement.

Kinnear's early efforts at bringing in reinforcements met with difficulty but he has landed a transfer target in a manner of speaking, bringing in Loic Remy on loan for £2m from QPR. The Frenchman must answer bail next month in relation to an allegation of rape, following his arrest with two other men in May.

On the positive side, Papiss Cisse has resolved his issues with having to wear a shirt promoting controversial payday loans, but that just means there is one fewer recruitment problem, not that there are none. It is not that long ago that newspapers were full of praise for the French revolution and Graham Carr's work as chief scout. Since Kinnear's arrival, Newcastle have reverted to the mode of the early Ashley years and provided more laughs than Graham's son, Alan.

A good start is vital for Pardew if he is to beat those bookies' odds, so he would perhaps have wished to avoid a trip to Manchester City on the opening weekend. That is followed by a home game against West Ham and the visit of Ashley's first cast-off, Sam Allardyce, then Fulham - helmed by the joint second favourite for the axe, Martin Jol - also visit St James' Park.

With Aston Villa and Hull to follow, Pardew - opening Sunday aside - has been handed a fairly generous run. If he fails to make the best of it then as he passes the first anniversary of that eight-year contract he will be looking over his shoulder intently.

Philip Cornwall

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